LOS ANGELES — John Lasseter, the Pixar co-founder who was forced to resign from the Walt Disney Company in June after complaints about unwanted touching in the workplace, has become one of the first men toppled in the #MeToo era to find a new Hollywood perch.
David Ellison, a “Mission: Impossible” producer and founder of Skydance Media, a production company affiliated with Paramount Pictures, said on Wednesday that Mr. Lasseter would become Skydance’s animation chief. Mr. Lasseter, 61, will start this month at the company, which Mr. Ellison, 36, started in 2010 with money inherited from his father, the Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison.
The comedian Louis C.K. has pushed to revive his comedy career — to vigorous opposition — after admitting to sexual misconduct. But Mr. Lasseter, a force behind the “Toy Story,” “Cars” and “Frozen” franchises, is one of the first executives in the entertainment industry to return to a position of prominence after #MeToo allegations.
In giving Mr. Lasseter a comeback opportunity, Mr. Ellison appears to have weighed his own professional ambitions — to build a major entertainment company — against any potential blowback, including from employees and advocacy organizations like Time’s Up.
“John is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated,” Mr. Ellison said in a statement. Skydance wants “to expand our animation efforts for the global marketplace,” he added. “We look forward to John bringing all of his creative talents, his experience managing large franchises, his renewed understanding of the responsibilities of leadership and his exuberance to Skydance.”
Still, Mr. Ellison continued: “We did not enter into this decision lightly. John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.”
Mr. Ellison did not specify how. A Skydance spokesman noted that the company’s two most senior-ranking women, Dana Goldberg, chief creative officer, and Anne Globe, chief marketing officer, both supported the decision to bring aboard Mr. Lasseter.
In an email to Skydance employees, Mr. Ellison said he had hired “outside counsel to thoroughly investigate the allegations, which we considered serious.” He did not reveal any of the conclusions but said the company had “carefully evaluated the findings of this extensive investigation.”
In a statement of his own, Mr. Lasseter insisted that he had spent time in “deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made many colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for.” He added that he planned to build Skydance Animation in the same way he built Pixar, albeit with a new commitment to “safety, trust and mutual respect.”
He will replace Bill Damaschke, a former DreamWorks Animation executive.
Time’s Up, the organization founded by women in Hollywood in response to the #MeToo movement, criticized Skydance as “providing another position of power, prominence and privilege to a man who has repeatedly been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.” The hire, Time’s Up added in a statement, “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”
Time’s Up, whose founders include Reese Witherspoon and Shonda Rhimes, said three things were needed for men like Mr. Lasseter to return to positions of authority: a demonstration of true remorse, deep work to reform their behavior and restitution to those harmed.
“Offering a high-profile position to an abuser who has yet to do any of those things is condoning abuse,” the organization said.
The accusations against Mr. Lasseter did not rise to the level of those against powerful Hollywood figures like Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of acts of sexual misconduct and rape going back decades, or Leslie Moonves, the former CBS chief who was found to have engaged in “multiple acts of serious nonconsensual sexual misconduct,” according to a report by CBS investigators. Both Mr. Weinstein and Mr. Moonves have denied engaging in nonconsensual sexual activity.
But the complaints made by Pixar and Disney employees against Mr. Lasseter were serious enough to prompt his ouster. The Hollywood Reporter cited “grabbing, kissing and making comments about physical attributes” as recurring behavior by Mr. Lasseter in meetings and at work events, particularly when he had consumed alcohol. Multiple staff members — none who came forward publicly — also told managers at Disney that Mr. Lasseter had become increasingly domineering over the years.
As word spread in Hollywood this week that Mr. Lasseter was close to finding new employment, several influential women involved with the #MeToo movement noted that he expressed no regret for his behavior or discussed making efforts to reform when he left Disney in June. In a statement at the time, he said he had made his own decision to “begin focusing on new creative challenges.”
Disney had put Mr. Lasseter on leave in November 2017. At that time, he sent an email to employees at Pixar and the separate Walt Disney Animation studio apologizing “to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape or form.”
As Mr. Lasseter looked for a new job in recent months, people in his camp contended that he had been unfairly swept up in the #MeToo movement. At one point, he talked to Warner Bros. about a role there.
Skydance, based in Santa Monica, has divisions dedicated to movies, television and video games. Skydance’s recent films include “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” which collected $791 million at the box office last year. It controls the “Terminator” franchise and supplies the hit series “Grace and Frankie” to Netflix. Coming up, Mr. Ellison is working with Paramount Pictures on a “Top Gun” sequel and “Gemini Man,” a science-fiction thriller directed by Ang Lee.
Skydance releases most of its movies through Paramount Pictures, which counts on Mr. Ellison as a major producing and co-financing partner (and was told about Mr. Lasseter’s hiring only in the minutes before it was announced). Skydance raised $700 million in new financing in 2016.
Skydance Animation, founded in 2017, has not released any films. One of its first movies, “Luck,” directed by Alessandro Carloni (“Kung Fu Panda 3”) and aimed toward theatrical release by Paramount in 2021, explores a world where secret organizations called Good Luck and Bad Luck secretly control people’s lives. Another project is an untitled fantasy directed by Vicky Jenson (“Shrek”). The division also intends to make animated television shows.
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